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The Internet of Things and Wearable Tech—The Future is Unlimited

 

By Rajiv Kapur, Managing Director, Broadcom India

 

Appeared in: PC Quest India

 

Imagine a device the size of a band aid that is capable of collecting your biological data and connecting with your smartphone to alert you when you require medical attention. Now, imagine a GPS device embedded in your pet’s collar that will help you locate him if he goes missing or better yet keep him from wandering off your property to begin with! While this might seem far-fetched and futuristic, researchers and innovators around the world are working behind the scenes and around the clock on extraordinary applications. Their efforts are driving innovation into areas that just a few years ago were considered little more than science fiction.

   

Around the globe, we are moving toward a scenario where we no longer just use technology. Instead the technology is being embedded in devices that are not only on us but   everywhere around us at home and at work. Because the devices are worn on the body, innovations in this space are known as ‘wearables’, and they are a key driving force behind the Internet of Things (IoT) era. 

   

The very diversity of IoT applications is staggering – literally anything that is electronic can be connected. We now have products capable of making life simpler and remotely managing tasks that up until a few years ago were only possible in movies. There are smart consumer products and devices that monitor health and behavior—whether human or animal. There is even a company called Dairymaster in the United States that markets a number of smart products for farmers, including a cloud-based MooMonitor that determines a cow's readiness for pregnancy.

   

The wearables revolution first started with fitness devices, watches and wirelessly-enabled sports shoes, but has since morphed into health and location monitors and activity trackers. FitBit and Nike Fuelband, for example, are two activity trackers worn on the wrist that allow a person to monitor their own physical activity in real time.  In India, start-up companies such as Diabeto are creating innovations poised to change the way we monitor and manage our health. With developments like these, it’s no wonder that analysts and experts alike predict that roughly 100 million wearable devices will have been sold by 2014. By 2018, that number is set to top 485 million. 

   

The development of IoT applications and wearable devices are being driven largely by innovations in wireless technologies; namely Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Smart, Near Field Communications (NFC), and GPS. Key enhancements in size, heat dissipation, and battery requirements have made better and smaller devices possible. Ongoing innovation in process and power consumption will further enable manufacturers to introduce IoT products and wearables with ever more functionality and mass appeal.

   

Bluetooth Smart (formerly known as Bluetooth Low Energy), is one such game-changing innovation. It enables devices to consume energy at such low rates that they can literally run for months, or even years, on just a single coin-cell battery. Apple is one company at the forefront in understanding the power of Bluetooth Smart and its impact on the wireless industry. To date, nearly all of its devices now serve as Bluetooth Smart ready hubs, allowing them to easily and simply connect to Bluetooth Smart-enabled sensor devices

 

Now Microsoft, Blackberry,  Google (Android), and Samsung are following suit—increasing Bluetooth Smart integration and setting the stage for an extraordinary explosion of wearables. This remarkable technology can seamlessly sync a wireless smartphone or tablet to a vehicle's audio and display system for communication with pedestrians, other vehicles and even road infrastructure. It also has the potential to connect wearable technology and medical sensors on the body to the vehicle. Google is currently testing driverless cars that can talk to traffic signals and other vehicles on the road. One day, in the not so far off future, emergency vehicles may even be fit with sensors that allow them to change traffic signals to ‘green’ for easier passage in times of need.

   

What’s becoming increasingly clear here is that when it comes to the IoT and wearable technology, the possibilities are too numerous to count. Their only limitation is our imagination.

 

 

Where is wearable tech headed?

 

By Rahul Patel, Broadcom

 

Appeared in: GigaOM

 

SUMMARY:

 

Wearable technology is all the rage, and it’s only the beginning of an array of connected devices that will invade our homes, cars and even our bodies.

   

Imagine a small adhesive strip that can collect intimate biological data and tell your smartphone that you need to apply sunscreen or hydrate. How about a sensor for service dogs that enables them to transmit “verbal” commands to their handlers? Around the world, researchers are working behind the scenes and around the clock on jaw-dropping applications for wearable technology, driving innovation into areas that were considered science fiction just a few years ago.

   

We no longer just use technology. The fact that tech is now all around us, on us, and even in us has given birth to a new buzz phrase, the internet of things. The very diversity of internet of things applications is staggering, ranging from smart consumer products to devices that monitor health and behavior—human or animal. Dairymaster already markets a number of smart products to farmers including a cloud-basedMooMonitor necklace that determines a cow’s readiness for pregnancy.

 


The first entries in the wearable tech space were watches and corrective lenses. Evolution brought health and fitness monitors to the scene. After that came smart watches and activity trackers. Samsung recently unveiled its new Android-powered Galaxy Gear smart watch, a touch-screen timepiece that acts as an extension of your smartphone to stream music, track exercise and fitness goals, install apps and make phone calls. With just one small wristband, Jawbone UP tracks sleeping, movement and eating patterns—real-time vital information for a holistic approach to optimal health.

 

Even more recently, Google captured attention with Glass, eyewear that delivers the functionality of a computer by connecting to your smartphone and displaying information on a screen hovering above one eye. Voice commands enable the hands-free advantage of Glass, which includes built-in GPS navigation, camera and video recording capability. If that sounds too James Bond for mass appeal, a new company by the name of AugMedix has the sole mission of exploring what Google Glass can do for physicians—in and out of the operating room.

 


Researchers who are guessing the impact of this mind-boggling, new industry are coming up with figures that are all over the map. Some of the more ambitious predictions are seeing the shipment of more than 100 million wearable devices in 2014 and as many as 485 million by 2018. In the relatively brief history of technology, it is difficult to imagine a market more rife with possibility. Why? Because the sky is no longer the limit.

 

 

Wireless makes it happen

 

The driving force behind the development and adoption of IoT is the wireless connectivity that frees technology to be anywhere and do anything. Sensor-embedded devices can transmit our personal data to the cloud for analysis and safekeeping, but they can also connect to processors like smartphones and tablets that can negotiate data from multiple wearable devices.

 

Supported by proven technologies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Smart, NFC and GPS, efficient radio designs continue to reduce the processing requirements and power needs of wearable devices. These efficiencies, in turn, enable manufacturers to design, produce and go to market with affordable products that encourage mass consumption. Without a doubt, the introduction of Bluetooth Smart, formerly Bluetooth low energy, is the real game changer in that arena, enabling devices to sip energy at such low rates that they can run for months or even years on a tiny, coin-cell battery.

 

 

The stunning implications of this incredibly low energy consumption have not been lost on the world’s leading OS providers. Quick to see the impact of Bluetooth Smart on the wireless industry, Apple prepared nearly all of their devices to serve as Bluetooth Smart ready hubs. It was Apple’s confidence that fueled the development of popular new accessories like Jawbone UP and the smart keyless entry product Unikey Kevo. But the wearables revolution is not confined to established companies and big players — or even just wearables. Entrepreneurs are using crowd-funding to develop and bring to market their own ideas for intriguing new products such as iDevices’ virtual closet or the Pebble smart watch.

 

 

Connecting your body via Bluetooth (or even Wi-Fi)

 

Apple is not alone in its enthusiasm. Microsoft, Blackberry, Android, Google and Samsung are all increasing Bluetooth Smart integration and setting the stage for an extraordinary explosion of wearables. It is impossible to say what products are on the horizon. This remarkable technology can seamlessly sync a wireless smartphone or tablet to a vehicle’s audio and display system for communication with pedestrians, other vehicles and even infrastructure. It also has the potential to connect wearable technology and medical sensors inside the body to the vehicle.

 

 

The implications for medical applications are virtually endless as more and more companies experiment with planting sensors directly into the body. Starkey leverages Wi-Fi and noise reduction technology to improve sound clarity for the hearing-impaired in virtually every setting. Sensortech Corporation has announced a new orthopedic knee alignment product using Bluetooth Smart technology that promises to reduce operating and recovery times, promote faster healing, reduce component wear and offer superior pain management.

 

 

Wearable technology has the potential to enhance our surroundings, improve our health and change the way we interact with each other. The only two ingredients anyone needs to make the future a reality is imagination and a strong foundation of standards-based connectivity technology. So exactly where is wearable tech heading? The answer is the internet of everything!

   

Rahul Patel is Vice President, Product Marketing, Wireless Connectivity Combos at Broadcom.